Friday, 26 November 2021

The Silence of the Trams

Many years ago, the ambassador of a nation whose vehicles drive on the opposite side of the road to those in Europe, looked left instead of right as he crossed Vienna's Ringstrasse and was, consequently, run over by a tram. As trams are almost silent, he had no idea that one was approaching. So that was the end of him.

One might, if one were inclined to assess risk in a certain way, argue that the sensible lesson to learn from this sad tale is that one should never travel to Vienna. Possibly one could go further and argue that one should never travel to anywhere that includes trams in its public transport system.

That would be the conclusion you might reach if your assessment of risk was of the kind that seems to be animating governments worldwide in their approach to the new coronavirus and its ever-increasing number of variants. 

My view is that that assessment is hysterical and far too extreme.  We have ruined existence for countless people with excessively harsh regulations, when we might have taken more moderate measures in the face of the real but limited danger the virus poses. 

I acknowledge, with shame, that I didn't always think like this. At first I was crazed with panic, convinced that we all needed to be forced into our homes to cower for months and months on end, obeying our elected representatives' edicts and feeling outraged by those who didn't toe the line.

But my views have evolved as I've learned more about what the danger is that we are actually facing, and I have now changed my mind. I am not at the point where I think the virus doesn't exist - I know it does: I have friends and relatives who have suffered from it, some still unable to taste or smell some weeks or months afterwards. People in my neighbourhood have died. Despite these things, I no longer think the level of dismantlement of normal society that we continue to endure is justifiable.

I'm glad in a way that I was so mistaken to begin with, because realising what a twit I was has led me to think about risk. And I've realised that assessment of risk is also important in looking at another issue that is exercising many people nowadays in almost precisely the same way that I was exercised in the early days of the new coronavirus's appearance. That issue is variously called "climate change" or "global warming".

Once again, just as I don't deny that the new virus is very nasty at its worst, I also don't deny that the climate is changing or that the globe is warming. However, I do question whether the many measures being proposed by authority are the correct reaction to the degree of risk we face. As with lockdowns, I also wonder whether the various new prohibitions on all sorts of day-to-day things will be useful or effective, or whether they might cause unforeseen, wide-spread damage instead. 

In thinking about how to approach these two issues - coronavirus and climate change/global warming - it strikes me that the risks they pose and the responses to them that we need to fashion actually run in parallel, (like tramlines, one might say, if keen to inject a vague sense of cohesion into a rambling blogpost). Climate change/global warming and the new coronavirus are each here to stay. In dealing with each of them, we have to first accept their presence, rather than fighting to eradicate them entirely, and then learn to adapt. 

The whole long drama of the virus and the response by various authorities to it has made me understand finally the blindingly obvious: things are constantly changing and life sweeps us onwards, full of endless risk. As to trams and the cities where they operate, my policy is to always look both left and right.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Old Jokes

 I read a couple of old Soviet jokes the other day & thought, “I do love old Soviet jokes”. Sadly, I’ve already forgotten one of them, but this was the other, courtesy of @akoz33:

“Brezhnev & Carter competed in a race & Soviet newspapers reported that Carter came in last but one, & Brezhnev came in second.”

But this morning when a friend sent me a joke about Gordon Brown & Peter Mandelson, I realised I was only partly right. This is the joke:

'Peter Mandelson & Gordon Brown were returning from the funeral of John Smith on Iona. They stopped at the Loch Fyne Fish Bar near Inveraray. The bar had a payphone & Mandelson asked Brown for 25p to put in the slot, as he had to phone a friend. Brown said "Here's 50p & you can phone them all."'

It turns out I like not merely old Soviet jokes, but the wider category labelled “Old jokes of all kinds”.

Tuesday, 23 November 2021

Monday, 22 November 2021

Velasquez in Dublin

In the summer, we spent ten days in Ireland, starting and ending with Dublin, where I went to the National Gallery of Ireland. I knew they had the extraordinary painting by Caravaggio, called The Taking of Christ. I saw it once at the National Gallery in London years ago and, along with his painting of the crown of thorns being forced onto Christ's head, which is in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, it is my favourite of the paintings I've seen by Caravaggio. 

I told myself not to take any pictures, because it is pointless, but in the end I did take some, trying to somehow capture and take away something of the way the picture portrays Christ and Judas Iscariot at the moment of betrayal:











What I hadn't expected was how wonderful the rest of the collection is at the Dublin gallery. I will share some more of the pictures in future posts, but the painting that particularly struck me was this one, which is called Kitchen Maid with the Supper at Emmaus. It was painted in 1617-18 and the gallery claims it is Velasquez's earliest known work. 



What I love most about this picture is its perspective. Its subject is the supper at Emmaus, but you only realise that after looking at it closely. Thus, you find yourself in the same position as the young maid who is the central figure - suddenly aware that something is present that you weren't aware of at first glance . 

Here she is, in the midst of kitchen work, suddenly sensing something strange and startling nearby:


In the foreground, meticulously recorded in all their beautiful day-to-day reality, the things of the kitchen:




and behind them, sketched in without any attempt at sharp realism, the miraculous appearance of the resurrected Christ:

and the sweet, startled girl, like all of us, trying to make sense of it:








 

Saturday, 20 November 2021

Blistering Barnacles

Whether he had any connection to Hergé's character of the same name - (Tintin's greatest friend, after Snowy) - no-one is certain, but there was, it turns out, a real Captain Haddock. Thundering typhoons.

PS By chance this morning there was a rare sighting on Twitter of Hergé’s Haddock - 



Someone posted the pictures to represent what they imagined Mary Shelley’s reaction would be to today’s claim by the New York Times that HG Wells and Jules Verne invented science fiction.

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Rules for a Traditionalist Contemplating Contemporary Life: No. 3

Once upon a time we used to be told about movers and shakers. I didn't mind too much being told about them. There was something jolly and a bit silly about the image that was conjured up by the phrase, in my mind at least - 1960s chain link belts, bell bottoms and this very silly song:


Was there ever a sillier one?

"Movers and shakers" was aspirational. Any of us - or most of us anyway - can move, and, if called upon, perhaps with some embarrassment, we can even shake. Therefore, anyone who chose to could join the moving and shaking ranks, at any moment.

But movers and shakers have been replaced now, and we have A-listers in their stead. Ugh. 

I've no idea how you become an A-lister. I don't know who puts the list together in the first place either. The people who write the back parts of newspapers, I'd imagine, since it is they who report on A-listers' prancing and preening. Stuck for something to fill their pages, hacks draw up lists of A-listers' favourite restaurants and holiday spots and foods and present them to us with fanfare. "Where A-Listers Like to Relax", "What A-Listers Are Wearing This Christmas", et cetera, et cetera. Never what their favourite lavatory paper is, mind you, because presumably A-listers don't need use lavatory paper. 

Bring back movers and shakers! They were much more fun. Here are some movers and shakers from what is called "back in the day". The two on the left certainly seem to be having much more fun than any A-listers these days (and I think the picture undermines the idea that the much-reported demise of the suit and tie is doing men any favours):







Sunday, 7 November 2021

Pleasant Surprise

This afternoon, when I opened a recent copy of the London Review of Books, I was surprised and delighted to find a new poem by Hugo Williams. I have his collection called From the Dialysis Ward and I'd imagined, from a reading of it, that he was on death's door some years ago and by now must be dead.

But he isn't; he's still here, writing rather enchanting poems like this one (perhaps my favourite line is 'in an atmosphere of ice cream'):




Thursday, 4 November 2021

Season of Tyres and Tiger-print

The weather in Budapest has made an abrupt change to autumnal - rain, cold, morning fog. My beloved local hardware shop has updated its windows to greet the new season:




T



It saddens me that the reflection in the glass of the building opposite means that it is hard to make out the shower curtain featuring a portrait of a tiger that the windowdresser has teamed with a tigerprint-handled broom in picture No. 4. 

The creativity that is poured into these displays reminds me of that which finds its annual outlet via the entries in novelty cake competition sections at Australian country shows. Here, for example are cakes inspired by Australia's participation in World War One from the Canberra Show a few years back:







The one depicting soldiers in a trench is definitely my favourite, as its maker, more than any of the other entrants, refused to allow any thoughts about whether or not what was being made might be appetising enter into play.



Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Sweden Chose Another Way

Having gone from stupidly panicked & uninformed disapproval of Sweden’s approach during the so-called pandemic to an understanding that their approach was the right one, I was intrigued when I saw Tweets about an article that looks at what happened in Sweden & how little the Swedish experience is being reported by any international media. As the article was only in Swedish, I decided to run it through Google Translate & I am putting the result here for those who might be interested 


The author of the article is Johan Anderberg & the original piece can be found here.


 The disaster that never came


1 November 2021 19:03


 Sweden's low death toll is an uncomfortable truth for the media and those in power in several countries.  They show that millions of people have lived in deprivation to no avail.


 Exactly one hundred years ago, a large demonstration took place in New York.

 It was a summer day in 1921. July 4, to be precise - United States National Day.

 Between two o'clock and four o'clock in the afternoon, 20,000 people walked down Fifth Avenue.  They sang, chanted and held up placards.  On one of them appeared Leonardo da Vinci's painting "The Last Supper" - with the text: "Wine was served".


 "Tyranny in the name of justice is the worst of all tyrannies," another poster read.


 "Cheers for beer," shouted a gray-haired woman, according to a report in the New York Times from the next day.


 What happened that day was the result of one of the greatest public health policy experiments ever.  For a year, beer, wine and spirits had been illegal throughout the United States.  Thanks to an amendment to the US Constitution, all production, transportation and sale of alcohol were banned.


From a public health perspective, it appeared to be a reasonable measure.  It was clear that alcohol was a dangerous substance.  Illness, violence, poverty and crime were intimately linked to the drug.


 As so often in the history of democracy, Americans now wrestled with the balance between freedom and security.  Was it really right to prevent free people from making drinks that they not only appreciated, but that were also important for cultural and religious reasons?


The protesters who went south in Manhattan that day had their opinion clear.  This was an anti-democratic invention.  The posters referred to George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.  This is not how it would be in a free society.


Twelve years later, the experiment was over.  In 1933, alcohol became legal again.

 But it was not because the libertarian arguments had won.  It was not because those protesters were suddenly heard for their opinions.


 Nor was it because the drug itself was considered less harmful to health.


 The reason why the alcohol ban ceased to apply was because it simply did not work.

 It no longer mattered whether alcohol was dangerous or not.  It did not matter what political opinion one had.


 If it did not work, then it did not work.


Because no matter what the law said, Americans did not stop consuming alcohol.  Drinking was simply moved from bars to "speakeasies", people learned to burn their own alcohol, smuggling from Canada became a popular sport, and the American mafia found a new source of income.


Today, most people agree that the experiment - "the noble experiment", as American historians call it - was a gigantic failure.


Until a little more than two years ago, the American alcohol ban was the largest social engineering experiment a democracy has ever undertaken.


 But then it was 2020.


At the beginning of that year, a new virus began to seep out of China.  And the whole world began a new experiment.


 Faced with the threat of a new coronavirus, the world's rulers invented completely new measures to prevent the spread.  By closing schools, by banning people from meeting, by forcing entrepreneurs to close down their businesses, by forcing citizens to wear masks, the idea was that lives could be saved


 Just as during the "noble experiment" in the United States, this experiment also created a debate.  In all the democracies of the world, freedom was weighed against what was perceived as security.  Individual rights stood against what was considered best for public health.


The path that Sweden chose stood out in several ways.  For the citizens of the country, it was most clearly noticed by the fact that they largely did not have to wear masks, that the younger children went to school and that their activities were largely allowed to continue unhindered.

 Some groups had their lives or livelihoods cut disproportionately: high school students, people over the age of 70, employees in the restaurant industry.


But there was no doubt that the Swedes lived freer than others.


So how did it really go?


Eleven years after that demonstration in New York, the US Supreme Court ruled in a lawsuit that came to be known as the New State Ice Co.  v. Liebmann.


 It was not about alcohol.  It was not really about something that is particularly interesting today.  It was about whether Oklahoma was entitled to require a special license from companies that sold ice in the state.


 No, the court said.  Everyone who wanted to could sell ice cream.


 So that was it.  And probably the obscure dispute would have fallen into oblivion rather quickly if it were not for a dissenting opinion that one of the nine judges wrote down and added to the verdict.


The judge's name was Louis Brandeis and he wanted to draw the other lawyers' attention to what he called a "happy circumstance" in American democracy.


 "A brave state can," he wrote, "if its inhabitants so wish, function as a laboratory and test new social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country."


 The year was 1932, and Brandeis described the revolutionary scientific leaps that the Western world had produced in a short time: “the discoveries in physics, the triumphs of innovation, show the value of trial and error.  To a large extent, this progress is due to experimentation. ”

 So why would a democracy give up the same opportunity to learn, to improve, to make the lives of its citizens better?


 To experiment simply.


 Brandei's thought figure has since come to be known as "the laboratories of democracy".  If you are a political scientist, you may prefer to call it "institutional competition", but the idea is the same: bad ideas are eliminated and slowly replaced by better ones.  Thanks to the United States' failed attempt to ban alcohol, no democracies have attempted it since.


They did an experiment.  And we took advantage of it.


It's almost hard to remember it now, but for most of 2020, the word 'experiment' had a negative connotation.  It was one that we Swedes were exposed to, when we - compared to the rest of the world - maintained some form of normality.

 This experiment was condemned by the outside world early on as "a disaster" (Time Magazine), a "moral history" (New York Times), "deadly folly" (The Guardian) and so on.  The more influential a newspaper was, the stronger the invective seemed to become.  In Germany, Focus called it all "laxity", Italian La Repubblica said that "the Nordic model country" made a dangerous mistake.


 That's what it looked like.


 The description of the Swedish line as an experiment was not really wrong.  In both theory and practice, Swedes lived very differently compared to, above all, Americans and other Europeans.


One could object that it was Italy, France, Germany, the United States, the United Kingdom and the other countries that were conducting an experiment, that they were testing completely new ways to prevent the spread of a virus.


But the word choice is less important.  It is clear that Sweden chose one path, the rest of Europe another.


One could see it as if the outside world formulated a hypothesis.  It was that freedom in Sweden would be costly.


 The absence of restrictions, the open schools, the reliance on recommendations in violation of laws and police interventions, would result in higher death rates than in other countries.  And - consequently - that the freedom that the citizens of the other countries experienced would save lives.


 Many Swedes agreed with that hypothesis.  "Shut down Sweden to protect Sweden," wrote Dagens Nyheter's Peter Wolodarski, who in his double power of both opinion leaders and head of Sweden's most influential newsroom, must be described as the country's most powerful journalist.


 He was far from alone in demanding a tougher grip.  Renowned infection control experts, microbiologists, epidemiologists - from all over the country were warned of the consequences.  Researchers from Uppsala University, Karolinska Institutet and the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm connected supercomputers and calculated that 96,000 Swedes would die before the summer of 2020.


At this time, it was not an unreasonable theory that Swedish freedom was expensive.  In the US, with its powerful shutdowns, the death toll - measured per capita - was significantly lower than in Sweden throughout the spring of 2020. And on the sites where the ravages of the pandemic could be followed in real time - such as Our World in Data, Johns Hopkins University database or Worldometer -  it was clear that Sweden had higher death rates than most other countries.

 But the experiment continued.  During the year that followed, the virus ravaged the world and several of the shut down countries now passed Sweden's death toll - one by one.


 Britain, USA, France, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Hungary, Spain, Argentina, Belgium - countries that blocked playgrounds, forced their children to wear masks, closed schools, fined citizens for hanging on the beach, guarded parks with drones - all  have been hit worse than Sweden.


 At the time of writing, over 50 countries have a higher proportion of deaths in covid.


 If you measure excess mortality for the whole of 2020, Sweden, according to Eurostat, will end up in 21st place out of 31 European countries.


This fact must be one of the world's most underreported news.  Considering all the articles and TV features that were made about Sweden's foolishly liberal attitude to the pandemic a year ago, considering how certain data sources were daily referenced in the world media, it is strange that the same sources today seem completely uninteresting.


 Therefore, there is now a bit of a charade going on in the world media;  it is as if Sweden does not exist.  When the Wall Street Journal published a report from Portugal this week, it was described as if the country could "give a glimpse" of what it was like to live with the virus.  This new life meant, among other things, vaccine passes and masks at large crowd events such as football matches.


 Not a single place in the report mentioned that people in Sweden could attend football matches without wearing masks.  Not in one place was it said that Sweden - with a smaller proportion of dead than Portugal since the start of the pandemic - had ended virtually all restrictions.


 The Wall Street Journal is far from alone in its selective reporting.  The New York Times, The Guardian, the BBC, The Times - they were all once so hungry for lockdowns that today it is impossible for them to falsify their original theories.


Johan Anderberg is a journalist and author of the book "Flocken" about Sweden's pandemic strategy.

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Things I Miss About Belgium - an Occasional Series

I have let this blog slip while preoccupied - which is silly, given that blogging is a pleasure and a relaxation. But when things get really stressful, one forgets even how to relax, or at least I do.

Anyway, in relative calm for a bit, I am enjoying fiddling about, not working on the project I am supposed to be working on, but instead doing things I've put off for ages. One - and it should keep me busy for a fortnight at least - is going through the photographs I've taken over the last six or seven years. Once upon a time, these would have been tossed in a jumble into a cardboard box on a high shelf but, as we live in a digital age, they are instead in a jumble in the ether. 

Anyway, among them are many photographs I took while we lived in Belgium, a place I became extremely fond of. I am puzzled that few people recognise Belgium as one of the most pleasant countries in Europe, and so I think I will try from time to time to pull out from my jumbled photographs examples of the things that make it so pleasant. Mind you, it is impossible with a few photographs to do justice to all the enchanting little Flemish towns no one has heard of - or even those that many have heard of. You have to go there to grasp what delightful places they are.  And I suppose I have to admit that part of my love of Belgium is because of the kind of person I am - someone who is not very interested in always being well-groomed and going to flashy places, but rather prefers the sense that much of Belgium exudes of cosiness and accepting you as you are and recognising that there are more important things in life than clothes and shiny cars. Which seems to have worked well for them, given that, over the centuries, Belgians have proved that, despite not being as a general rule willowy and elegant like the Parisians, they can do the important things - namely producing, time and again, the greatest paintings the world has ever seen. 

But today's example of a thing I miss about Belgium is not a painting, but a merry-go-round. A very special kind of merry-go- round that I've never seen anywhere else. These merry-go-rounds appear for a limited time each year in Belgium, in the lead-up to Christmas. Unlike so much these days, they don't appear to be mass-produced. In fact, they strike me as practically magic. Here is a clip of one in action. I filmed it in the area of Brussels called St Catherine's (one of my favourite areas of the city), way back in December 2015:




Monday, 11 October 2021

Did They Get a Look In?

Because I am not nearly such a noble parent as my husband - (he plodded off with children who became fascinated by the story, accompanying them patiently while they watched the film time and time again) - I only saw Titanic once. 

From my faint memory of that one viewing, I don't think the people in the engine room got a mention in the whole extravaganza. But I am glad to say that in Liverpool there is a splendid monument to the memory of the 244 men who died while trying to maintain the Titanic in enough of a working condition to allow at least some of its passengers to escape as it sank. For more about the monument, follow this link.

Friday, 8 October 2021

Reverse Process

Returning to England after the forced absence of lockdowns, I read this passage in a newspaper:

"Every time I return to England from abroad, the country seems a little more run-down than when I went away; its streets a little shabbier; its railway carriages and restaurants a little dingier ... and the vainglorious rhetoric of politicians a little more fatuous."

"Yes, yes", I thought, "my sentiments exactly."

But, hang on, these were words written by Malcolm Muggeridge in 1963 - my halcyon days! What? Is it not England that has changed, but me?

Fruit, as it matures, ripens and becomes sweeter, but do people - well, me - become sourer, following the ripening process but in reverse? 

PS

In my vinegary senescence, I saw this in today's paper, and my instant thought when I read that Basquiat - I know, I know, a total genius, just my narrow mindedness and bigotry that prevents me seeing that - when he said he was inspired by Leonardo, was referring to di Caprio:



Thursday, 7 October 2021

Is There a Sub Text?

Picture the scene: a conservative household, perhaps not entirely unlike mine, the partner who identifies as male in the marriage - someone not entirely unlike my husband - peering at an article in the Telegraph, headed by a photograph of the artist formerly known as Carrie Symonds. "What's that", asks the partner identifying as female - someone not entirely unlike myself.

The Telegraph reader looks up at the female-identifier, his eyes full of puzzlement. "She says Boris Johnson is going to extend gay rights further. What can that mean?" he asks. 

"Is he going to make it compulsory?"

We’re talking about a speech at the 2021 conference of the British party that calls itself Conservative. Clearly, we aren’t alone in taking the word conservative at face value. All across Great Britain there are conservative voters scratching their heads along with us, unaware of the intricacies of textual interpretation, understanding nothing of the joy of discovering sub-texts, unaware that these days language is as much a plaything as it was for Alice's Humpty Dumpty,(1.), with dictionary meanings unmoored from their one-time words.

----------------

(1.) 'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'




Wednesday, 6 October 2021

Treasure in Plain Sight

As a child, my dream was to find my way through the back of a wardrobe or to travel via a time warp to some point in the distant past. I loved the idea of magic - and half magic, as described by the wonderful American Edward Eager, inspired by E Nesbit. I still find the idea of continuity with the past or a link with the people who have gone before very appealing. It is probably the thing that makes me slightly more attached to the British Isles than to Australia, although I was born a citizen of both countries, (once, Australia tipped the balance in its own favour by appearing to be so much better governed than Britain but sadly the current panic - sorry, pandemic - has revealed that to have been an illusion.)

Anyway, as we grow older it is difficult to retain a sense of magic and of the past being all about us. But sometimes still that feeling can be recaptured. For me, it happened when I stepped inside the parish church of St Just in Cornwall. The interior of that place is quiet and shadowy and resonant in a beautifully melancholy way. 

There it is, on the crest of the hill - the sight of a church tower rising from the landscape is always for me one of the joys of Britain.

Here it is, at close quarters, the stone in front of it, I would guess, dating from centuries earlier than the buildings that stand there now.



This tomb stone also appears ancient, although I cannot make out what is written upon it - can that be the year 1281?


An excellent local historian called Andrew Michael Burt has provided fascinating and very clear information about the church, the bulk of which, as it stands now, dates from the 14th century. However, on the site as far back as the 5th century some form of place of worship has existed, as shown by the Selus memorial stone, commemorating St Just's brother Selevan: 

Burt explains that the parishioners of St Just were part of something I had no knowledge of before - an event that is topical in light of contemporary events in the Catholic church. This event is called, according to Burt, the Prayer Book Rebellion of 1549. At this time, the Cornish took up arms, outraged because the new Book of Common Prayer was written in English. They petitioned the King, saying that the new service was "like a Christmas game" and insisting, "We will have our old service of Mattins, Mass, Evensong and Procession as it was before. And so we as Cornish men (whereof certain of us understand no English) utterly refuse this new English". Burt explains that Cranmer had no understanding of the fact that from early times the bulk of the service had been in Latin but the Creed, Commandments and some other parts of the Liturgy had been celebrated in Cornish. 

Burt also explains that the Puritans insisted on covering over all decorative elements and so it was only in 1865 that this fresco from the 15th century, called Christ of the Trades, was uncovered. It shows a wounded Christ blessing the tools of the various trades practised in the surrounding area:
All the time one is in the church, one is conscious of a huge piece of drapery hanging against the wall of one of the naves. It turns out to be the white ensign flown by HMS Revenge during the Battle of Jutland in 1916. For me, there is always something of the mournfulness of a Wilfred Owen poem about huge old flags of battle, hanging, often tattered, in places of worship - I suppose I am thinking really of St George's Chapel, Ypres, one of the most poignant church interiors that I know:


I don't know what used to be in the church's windows but they seem to be Victorian and post-world war 1. I am fond of stained glass from this period and I am always puzzled about why we have lost the skill to produce such work now. Today's figurative sculpture and stained glass both seem immensely clumsy compared to that made as recently as one hundred years ago:








Given my heritage, I was surprised as I left St Just to realise that Bendigo in Australia is St Just's twin:
I was also intrigued to see, in what seemed to be an entirely white area, a lone outpost of the organisation Black Lives Matter:
She spends each Wednesday in the central square of St Just apparently. I hope that cup of coffee is Fair Trade:
In these strange times, I find a place like the church at St Just a refuge of calm, continuity and, of course, Christianity, without which I fear our civilisation will soon cease to exist.





I was surprised to see a flock of sheep beside the church marked not in the usual one shade but rather in rainbow colours. I suppose the farmer simply wants a bit of gaiety in his fields; or possibly he (or she) is unusually loyal to the alternative religion of Britain; that is, the NHS: